Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "Rick Spielman"

Rick Spielman

Today, it was revealed that defensive tackle Kevin Williams was part of a move that seemed obvious to us all months ago, as he restructured his contract with the Vikings which will gain the Vikings about $2.5 million in cap space.

His previous deal had already paid out all guarantees and we’ve known for a long time that Williams was essentially a year-to-year at-will employee, and the Vikings could have cut him at any point this offseason with no cap penalties had they decided to do so.  The Vikings could have done just that to avoid his $7 million salary that he was scheduled to make in both 2013 and 2014.

Instead, Williams was apparently willing to take a paycut in return for some guaranteed money.

His new deal runs through this upcoming season only, and the $4.9 million salary is not only considerable, but is also fully guaranteed.  This pretty much makes it a certainty that he will be a Vikings for one more season, at the least.

Some will consider this move a sign that Williams is in his last year with the Vikings, but I’m not sure it means that.  Williams will be 34 years old next offseason, and the Vikings may simply be able to let the market establish itself for an aging tackle on the decline, and still opt to sign him if he is willing to play for a reasonable salary.  He will potentially join defensive linemen Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen as free agents next offseason which could mean a significant change to the defensive line is on the horizon.

For now, however, it appears the D-Line is staying mostly intact.

What I don’t understand, and never will, is why it took so long for the Vikings to work out an obviously needed deal with a lifelong Viking.  The move has seemed so obvious for so long.  Even Williams himself brought up the issue about 10 months ago.  This issue of over-cautiousness (or procrastination) on Rick Spielman’s part has really annoyed me this offseason, not only because we saw other teams land more quality players in free agency, but because the same type of mentality led to what I will always consider a black mark in Vikings history.

We have already established with pretty good detail that Rick Spielman’s decision to release veteran cornerback, and locker room leader, Antoine Winfield was not a popular one when it came to the fan base.

As it turns out, according to NFL Network‘s Ian Rappaport, the move did not sit well with some “Vikings people” within Winter Park either.

One person told Rappaport that “It’s a move backwards” and he says some “aren’t thrilled” with Spielman’s decision.

I feel like I’ve already beat this topic to death, but I would still like to note that as of Thursday afternoon right tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith remain unsigned, which is significant because the decision to break their budget for Phil Loadholt was cited as a reason for Winfield’s abrupt departure.  In fact, other decent offensive tackles are currently available such as Jake Long and Eric Winston, not to mention the many options available in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Rick Spielman has a reputation in Minnesota for letting the market establish itself before making hasty, big-money decisions so it was surprising to see him cave to Loadholt’s demands even if the player was threatening to join the division rival Chicago Bears.

However, recent events are making me wonder if Spielman isn’t overvaluing the players he has had a hand in bringing to Minnesota.  The most recent evidence of this is that the Vikings quickly snatched receiver Jerome Simpson to a one year deal worth $2.1 million.  Not only is that a raise from his 2012 salary of $2 million, but Spielman gave Simpson a $500,000 signing bonus, and a $250,000 workout bonus, according to 1500 ESPN.  The Vikings are betting on Simpson staying healthy (he did pass his physical) and producing far more significantly than he did last season.

Simpson’s pay day comes despite the fact that he never produced more than 50 receiving yards in any game last season and has caught the same amount of touchdown passes from Christian Ponder as I have:  zero.

It is not a huge surprise that fans aren’t a fan of Rick Spielman’s approach to free agency, as he is usually going to shy away from the splashy instant gratification moves that fans love to see, but his decision to cut Winfield is putting everything else he does under a microscope and doing the math to see just why exactly his plan had to involve that questionable decision.

And, according to Rappaport’s report, some within Winter Park are looking pretty closely themselves.

When the Vikings signed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield to a contract extension in 2009 the unique triggers in the deal, which de-escalated his salary if he were relegated to the nickel position primarily, should have been all the motivation the team’s front office needed to greatly upgrade the position and ensure Winfield stays put with a manageable salary.

Instead, the Vikings did little to add real firepower to the cornerback position and Winfield’s 2012 playing time meant his salary would be $7.25 million in 2013, which is obviously a lot to pay your average 36 year old corner.

The thing is, however, Antoine Winfield is not your average anything.

Ever since signing with the Vikings nine seasons ago, Winfield has been an example to every Vikings player to ever pass through the locker room, showing them how an NFL player ought to act off the field and how a great one ought to play on it.  He has defied logic by being the greatest tackling cornerback the NFL has ever seen despite his small stature.  He has played through emotional and physical pain.  He has neutralized some of the best running backs, wide outs, and even quarterbacks the Vikings ever played.  He has delivered speeches that resonated with his entire defense.  He has been an on-field coach and an off-field angel in the Twin Cities.  He has, almost single handedly, won some very memorable football games for us Vikings to remember and cherish forever.

His release sparked an outrage within the Viking fan community.  I tried to take emotion out of it when explaining the financial reasons for myself being upset, but still concluded that the Vikings front office was to blame.  After details of how the departure was orchestrated, however, I think the front office deserves blame for a lot more than simply the fact that Winfield was released.

Dan Wiederer of Access Vikings was the first to release details of how Winfield was informed of Rick Spielman’s decision.  Wiederer says that Winfield was at Winter Park working out on Tuesday morning when he was asked to go see Spielman in his office upstairs.  The release was described as “awkward” and “cold,” which is not terribly unusual in the business of the NFL, but it seems that this would be a situation that might warrant some extra tact.

Wiederer described Winfield as being confused and disappointed with how things played out.  Despite previous reports that indicated Winfield refused to take a pay cut to stay with the team, the report says that Winfield was never formally approached about restructuring or reducing his salary, which is why he and his agent were so taken by surprise with the move.  The report said Winfield felt like he deserved better, and all of us would likely agree with him.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports has been at the forefront of the Percy Harvin story, including a recent report that Harvin nearly walked out on his team last season, and he is tidying up this whole saga by tossing one last dose of fuel onto the fire.

Cole asserts that unhappiness with the Vikings quarterback situation, specifically Christian Ponder, was a primary driver behind Harvin’s desire to leave Minnesota.

According to two sources, the straw that broke the Vikings’ back with Harvin is when he bemoaned the fact that quarterback Christian Ponder, a 2011 first-round pick, was not good enough. That came even though Ponder consistently fed Harvin the ball.

The rumors of a trade seemed to cause unrest within Vikings fan circles.  The trade itself seems to have divided them.  Now, this report that pins some blame on Ponder may end up causing blogs and message boards to get downright nasty, at least on sites with less refined and civilized readers than we are lucky enough to have here at VT.

Some, like Christopher Gates of the Daily Norseman, will question the report and/or Harvin’s sanity since his production was never as high as it was last season, prior to his injury, with Ponder at quarterback.  He was getting manufactured touches, getting touches at running back and on special teams, and was on his way to career highs and MVP consideration before he hurt his ankle in, ironically enough, Seattle.

Others, like this hack blogger who lacks common sense, think that Harvin’s supposed gripes were plenty founded and that Christian Ponder has yet to prove that he has what it takes to lead a championship team.  Harvin’s complaints, despite his personal accomplishments, might just prove that he is a fierce competitor that simply wanted to win football games and was willing to speak his mind when he felt somebody was holding the team back.

He might have learned that from Randy Moss, who once told anyone that would listen that Brad Childress should be fired.

I’m not saying that complaining about your young quarterback is a recommended course of action, but I also can’t call Harvin any nasty names because of it when I, myself, was not satisfied with Ponder’s play in 2012.

What we do know is that Ponder has what appears to be the full support of Rick Spielman and his staff.  Here’s hoping he doesn’t make them regret that loyalty.

The details surrounding the Percy Harvin trade continue to trickle in and we nearly have achieved a full picture of what exactly went down.

The Vikings traded away the 24 year old superstar and received a trio of draft picks in return.

In 2013 the Vikings will get Seattle’s first round pick (25) and one of their seventh round picks (currently unknown which one).  In addition, multiple outlets are reporting that the Vikings received a 2014 third round pick as part of the deal.

That may not be the end of it.  Often time future picks are conditional and it could end up changing rounds if that is the case here, and it is possible that other intricacies are involved here, such as switching picks in one round or another in the Draft.  That might not be the case, but we have seen those details come out later on down the road on a number of occasions in the past, including last offseason’s trade that sent A.J. Jefferson to the Vikings.

Trading such a young and explosive talent may not be the ideal situation, but if you are going to do it then this is the type of compensation you want to get, and Rick Spielman deserves credit for maximizing the deal.  I can’t help but wonder if he was able to artificially inflate his asking price by pitting San Francisco and Seattle, division rivals, against one another in a bidding war.  Not long after the Harvin news broke, the Niners traded for Anquan Boldin who had previously been believed to be a likely cap causality of the Ravens.

The Vikings now have 11 picks in the 2013 Draft.  Five of those picks are in the top 100, at least until compensatory picks are awarded, and they are currently in a position to add two first round selections to their rebuilding efforts for the second offseason in a row.

One of the final big pieces of information we need to evaluate this trade is the contract that Harvin signs with the Seahawks, as it will more accurately portray what the Vikings would have had to sacrifice to keep him around.

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